Released in 1995 'Tales From The Punchbowl' is Primus delving deeper into the world of prog. For sure they had dabbled before with the weird and wonderful 'Pork Soda' but with dramatic inconsistencies. That is not to say that 'Pork Soda' wasn't a good album, but rather 'Tales From The Punchbowl' is a more polished record from a band that have honed their sound, resulting in Primus being in their prime.
As usual Les Claypool remains the driving force of the beast, but Larry 'Ler' LaLonde's guitar work really is nothing less than phenomenal here. It's his creativity that stands out for me and how well he compliments Les's bass lines. If someone came to me with some of the bass riffs on this album and asked me to write something for them I would've told them to *** off, but Ler just bats out lick after lick after lick.
If you've heard of Primus then you must've heard 'Wynona's Big Brown Beaver'. The lead single absolutely smashes it, it has it all, it's inventive, it carries a superb bass line, the guitar is intricate and the drums are as rock solid as Big Dave that works the door at your local nightclub. This is one of the rare moments on the album that they're bringing the funk metal a la 'Sailing The Seas Of Cheese' and 'Frizzle Fry'. It is refreshing to note, however, that this part of Primus isn't overly present here.
The rest of the album proves to be a delight. 'Professor Nutbutter's House Of Treats' is the owner of one of the finest tapping basslines I've ever heard and is a must for any fan of the instrument. 'Mrs Blaileen' sort of twins WBBB with it's funky rhythm section and disciplined guitar work and some serious lyrics from Les dealing with bullying at school until the point of exploding. Very rare indeed for primus. Southbound Pachyderm is a live favourite of the band and is where the album excels in proggyness painting various different moods which is different to Primus's usual powerhousing-their-way-through-a-song method and it is successful. This isn't only where the band step out of their comfort zone 'Over The Electric Grapevine', 'Glass Sandwich' and 'Del Davis Tree Farm' also show the band reaching out from under their rock and discovering more of the world. All of which contain very interesting movements to say the least.
This has become my favourite Primus record due to my grown love for Progressive Rock in my maturing. If you have been put off by Primus due to the metal side of their sound I emplore you to at least give this record a chance, you won't regret it.